April 30th / May 1 - Beltane
Also known as Roodmas or May Day
Many Wiccans and Pagans celebrate Beltane.  It is one of eight solar Sabbats.  This holiday incorporates traditions from the Gaelic Bealtaine, such as the bonfire, but it bears more relation to the Germanic May Day festival, both in its significance (focusing on fertility) and its rituals (such as May pole dancing).  Some traditions celebrate this holiday on May 1 or May day, whiles others begin their celebration the eve before or April 30th.



Beltane has long been celebrated with feasts and rituals. The name means fire of Bel; Belinos being one name for the Sun God, whose coronation feast we now celebrate. As summer begins, weather becomes warmer, and the plant world blossoms, an exuberant mood prevails. In old Celtic traditions it was a time of unabashed sexuality and promiscuity where marriages of a year and a day could be undertaken but it is rarely observed in that manner in modern times.


In the old Celtic times, young people would spend the entire night in the woods "A-Maying," and then dance around the phallic Maypole the next morning. Older married couples were allowed to remove their wedding rings (and the restrictions they imply) for this one night. May morning is a magickal time for wild water (dew, flowing streams, and springs) which is collected and used to bathe in for beauty, or to drink for health.

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The Christian religion had only a poor substitute for the life-affirming Maypole -- namely, the death-affirming cross. Hence, in the Christian calendar, this was celebrated as 'Roodmas'. In Germany, it was the feast of Saint Walpurga, or 'Walpurgisnacht'. An alternative date around May 5 (Old Beltane), when the sun reaches 15 degrees Taurus, is sometimes employed by Covens. (Both 'Lady Day' and 'Ostara' are names incorrectly assigned to this holiday by some modern traditions of Wicca.)

  


The May pole was a focal point of the old English village rituals. Many people would rise at the first light of dawn to go outdoors and gather flowers and branches to decorate their homes. Women traditionally would braid flowers into their hair. Men and women alike would decorate their bodies. Beltane marks the return of vitality, of passion. Ancient Pagan traditions say that Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms, and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God. To celebrate, a wedding feast, for the God and Goddess must be prepared. Let Them guide you! Breads and cereals are popular. Try oatmeal cakes or cookies sweetened with a dab of honey. Dairy foods are again appropriate...just make a lovely wedding feast and you are sure to enjoy yourself! An early morning walk through a local park or forest could be fun for everyone. Gather up some plants or flowers to display in your home. Mom and daughter could braid their hair, and weave in a few tender blossoms.

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Beltane Magic

Beltane is a season of fertility and fire, and we often find this reflected in the magic of the season. Let's look at some of that spring magic, from ritual sex to fertility magic, along with the magic found in gardens and nature.

 

Setting Up Your Beltane Altar - What To Include on Your Beltane Altar

It's Beltane, the Sabbat where many Wiccans and Pagans choose to celebrate the fertility of the earth. This Sabbat is about new life, fire, passion and rebirth, so there are all kinds of creative ways you can set up for the season. Depending on how much space you have, you can try some or even all of these ideas -- obviously, someone using a bookshelf as an altar will have less flexibility than someone using a table, but use what calls to you most.

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This is a time when the earth is lush and green as new grass and trees return to life after a winter of dormancy. Use lots of greens, as well as bright spring colors -- the yellow of the daffodils, forsythia and dandelions; the purples of the lilac; the blue of a spring sky or a robin's egg. Decorate your altar with any or all of these colors in your altar cloths, candles, or colored ribbons.

Floralia. Enchanted Witchery Candle 2x3. Sacred Rites of Fertility, Abundance, Nature Spirits, Sexual Energies, Wicca.


Fertility Symbols

The Beltane holiday is the time when, in some traditions, the male energy of the god is at its most potent. He is often portrayed with a large and erect phallus, and other symbols of his fertility include antlers, sticks, acorns, and seeds. You can include any of these on your altar. Consider adding a small Maypole centerpiece -- there are few things more phallic than a pole sticking up out of the ground!

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In addition to the lusty attributes of the god, the fertile womb of the goddess is honored at Beltane as well. She is the earth, warm and inviting, waiting for seeds to grow within her. Add a goddess symbol, such as a statue, cauldron, cup, or other feminine items. Any circular item, such as a wreath or ring, can be used to represent the goddess as well.

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Flowers and Faeries

Beltane is the time when the earth is greening once again -- as new life returns, flowers are abundant everywhere. Add a collection of early spring flowers to your altar -- daffodils, hyacinths, forsythia, daisies, tulips -- or consider making a floral crown to wear yourself. You may even want to pot some flowers or herbs as part of your Sabbat ritual.

 

In some cultures, Beltane is sacred to the Fae. If you follow a tradition that honors the Faerie realm, leave offerings on your altar for your household helpers.


Fire Festival

Because Beltane is one of the four fire festivals in modern Pagan traditions, find a way to incorporate fire into your altar setup. Although one popular custom is to hold a bonfire outside, that may not be practical for everyone, so instead it can be in the form of candles (the more the better), or a table-top brazier of some sort. A small cast-iron cauldron placed on a heat-resistant tile makes a great place to build an indoor fire.

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Other Symbols of Beltane

  • May baskets
  • Chalices
  • Honey, oats, milk
  • Antlers or horns
  • Fruit such as cherries, mangos, pomegranates, peaches
  • Swords, lances, arrows
The Altar

Drape the altar in a green cloth and decorate it with blooming flowers and herbs.

Herbs

All-heal, blessed thistle, broom, curry, daffodil, dogwood, coriander, dragon's blood reed, fern, fireweed, nettle, flaxseed, hawthorn, marjoram, paprika, radish, rue, snapdragon, mushroom, almond, meadowsweet, rose, woodruff, tansy, elder leaves.

Incense

Rose, jasmine, ylang, ylang, peach, musk, or vanilla.

Stones

Malachite, garnet, rose quartz, emerald, beryl, tourmaline.

Magick

Spells to ensure prosperity, conservation, safety, and love.

Activities

Jump the balefire. The bonfire, or need-fire, is one of the oldest Beltane traditions. When lighting the fire, use nine sacred woods from the following list:

oak, apple, hawthorn, birch, elder, ash, blackthorn, grape vine, mountain ash (rowan), holly, willow, cedar, yew, and hemlock.

Ashes from the balefire can be scattered in the fields as a fertility charm. Women wishing to conceive can tie a bag of the ashes around their necks. Traditionally, cattle and other animals were driven between two fires for protection, healing, and purification. Modern pagans can ritually purify tools or other things in the balefire. Jump the dying embers of the fire for summer blessings.

Dance around the maypole.

Gather the first wild herbs of the season.

Go a-Mayin' by going to the woods and fields to gather flowers. Take a picnic.

 

Wash your face in dew at sunrise on Beltane for beauty in the coming year. (Traditionally the dew from the hawthorn tree, but dew from grass and flowers will do.)

Make daisy chains and fresh flower wreaths and chaplets (head dresses) to wear and to place atop the maypole. Braid flowers in your hair. Make and wear leafy green masks to represent the Green Man who has returned.

Make a wish at the hawthorn tree, a tree associated with faeries. Place strips of cloth symbolizing your wish in the tree (the color should be appropriate to the nature of your wish, i.e. blue for health, pink or red for love, green or gold for prosperity). Take some time to attune to the tree. When you feel you have contacted its spirit, visualize your wish coming true as you hook the cloth on one of the tree's thorns, chanting your wish. When you have finished, leave a gift for the tree.

Make love in the woods. Beltane is the time of year when the Goddess and God consummate their passions. Traditionally it is a time when lovers pledge to live together for a year and a day. At the end of the period, they may part ways if things haven't worked out. If all has gone well, they may make plans for a handfasting at Midsummer.

Commune with the faeries.

Mark the boundaries of your circle with oatmeal, a traditional Beltane grain.

Food

Oatmeal and dairy products. Begin the day with a hearty bowl of Irish oatmeal topped with cream and brown sugar or country butter. Oatmeal brings good fortune and encourages the power and magick of the faeries. We always have warm oatmeal cookies and vanilla ice cream as a Beltane treat.

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